Gold boat-shaped earrings

Greek, about 420-400 BC
Said to be from a tomb at Eretria on the island of Euboea, Greece

Treasure from an island in the Aegean Sea

These earrings came to the British Museum in the late nineteenth century with an Athenian red-figured pyxis (toilet-box) and an ivory stylus (writing implement). All were said to have been found together at Eretria in what was described as an elaborately-built tomb: the objects are of types left as offerings in graves. It seems that a series of graves at Eretria was unusually rich in the late fifth century: a period from which Greek gold jewellery is rare. They may have been the graves of a small colony sent out from Athens, and the jewellery made specially for the settlers.

The boats are decorated, front and back, with tightly packed filigree designs. In each of them is a siren - a mythical monster combining the body of a bird with a female head. These have a die-formed front and a flat back sheet. Sirens were known in Greek mythology for their irresistible song that lured sailors to death on the craggy rocks where they perched. Four cockleshell pendants, with die-formed fronts and backs, are suspended by chains from each earring. Cockleshells are used frequently in jewellery, and were associated with the goddess Aphrodite. The boats are attached to a large, two-tiered rosette, with traces of enamelling, probably originally green and blue, in the inner petals.

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More information


D. Williams and J. Ogden, Greek gold: jewellery of the c (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


Height: 5.600 cm
Width: 2.200 cm (boat)
Weight: 11.400 g (each earring)

Museum number

GR 1893.11-3.1 (Jewellery 1653-54)



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